1. What's the overall sentiment among this year's team/coaching staff from the fans?
After Clemson finished last season 6-7, its first losing record since 1998, fans were ready to send Dabo Swinney packing. But he overhauled his offensive coaching staff, firing Billy Napier and his identity-challenged offense and hiring Chad Morris, who brought a hurry-up, no-huddle style. That, combined with signing the nation’s No.8 recruiting class, dramatically changed perception among the fanbase. I think they’re cautiously optimistic right now. Clemson lost five games by a touchdown or less a year ago, and reversing just two or three of those games would’ve made a dramatic difference.
Swinney and Morris feel like the firepower and explosiveness this offense brings will change the Tigers’ luck; if they’re right, Clemson will be among the ACC’s sleeper teams.
2. What are you expecting to see out of this offense with new coordinator Chad Morris?
Some hear “hurry-up, no-huddle” and think finesse, but Morris’ offense is physical. Talking with him this week, he used the word “physical” six times in 10 seconds, which gives you an idea of offensive emphasis. Morris likes to stretch the field and take chances downfield, but his system is rooted in a power running game. With Clemson bringing four offensive line starters and a healthy Andre Ellington back, that’s a good place to start. DeAndre Hopkins, Sammy Watkins and Charone Peake will stretch the field vertically, too.
Boyd struggled at times last season relieving Kyle Parker, but now that the starting job is his, he seems like a different guy. He made a renewed commitment to film study and workouts over the summer after a shaky spring game (completing only 8 of 24 passes) and it has showed this month. His footwork and ball security are two major areas of concern, but he worked hard at improving both over the summer. He’s an athletic quarterback who has strong running ability, and also has an excellent arm, with the ability to throw on the move. Morris and Clemson need him to be a force in the ground game as well, and I think he has the ability to do so.
4. Where are some areas Troy could take advantage of Clemson?
I think depth on the offensive and defensive lines are a concern. Fifth-year senior Phillip Price will be starting his first career game at left tackle, and if I was Troy, I’d line Jonathan Massaquoi across from him and test Price early. Clemson is uncertain about its offensive line reserves and will be playing two true freshmen as backup defensive tackles. The Tigers are solid across the board, but those are two areas of weakness.
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I think Troy is better than some of the Sun Belt teams Clemson has invited in recently (North Texas, Middle Tennessee, Louisiana-Monroe). Swinney called Massaquoi “as a good a pass rusher as we’ll see all year,” and they clearly have respect for Corey Robinson. That said, I think the Tigers will be ready for Troy’s quick-paced passing attack, and I think they have more overall speed and athleticism. Playing the Trojans in the first game is a challenge, considering that Clemson will be breaking in a number of impact freshmen on both sides of the ball. I think Troy will keep it close early and Clemson will pull away for a 38-17 win.